Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Political campaigning in Tokyo

One of the things that strikes me as quintessentially Tokyo-ian is the political candidate that stands in front of a train station and shouts promises into a megaphone while everyone else walks past him/her, trying to avoid making eye contact (the politician will turn the other way to avoid the inconvenience of looking at anyone that actually does stop to listen or take photos). Off to the side is one lone supporter trying to hand out pamphlets advertising the candidate. Often, while the candidate is a member of a major party, there's no real support backing them. In this case, you can see that the candidate had to ride his own bike, carrying his own amp, to the station. For a more detailed look, check out the movie Campaign.

Last summer, when I was riding along the Tamagawa, there was a similar scene with a candidate standing all alone on the raised hill portion next to the bike trail, speaking at a row of apartment buildings a couple of blocks away. He didn't even have anyone handing out fliers and there was no one nearby to act as an audience. It was almost as if he'd gone out there simply for the practice. Unfortunately, when I came back with my camera, he was gone and I never saw him again.

Naturally, the more established politicians have armies of workers out promoting them, and big speaker vans to stand on top of to shout down at the small crowds that form on the sidewalk. But those are powerful members of the big parties that have lots of supporters making donations specifically to them, and you only see them in front of the train stations in the central Tokyo area.

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